Putting on weight, is mainly due to result of heredity or a change in our lifestyle that is conducive to storing energy (calories) in the form of fat tissue or heredity. These changes can include moving from an active lifestyle to a more sedentary one, changes in diet, increased consumption of fats, sugars and other foodstuffs that contain ’empty calories’. Other changes may be a disease or an accident that makes us reduce our activity, but we continue eating as if we were as healthy and active as before the incident.
In order to maintain normal body weight, it is not enough to treat the body by special diets, changes in lifestyle or becoming a sportsman. It is also necessary to work on the level of consciousness, which is the mental energy, and on the other aspects which are instrumental to this power or energy. The science of yoga is a scientific system for developing our body/mind instrument for the expression of consciousness.
Yoga can be a useful tool in the battle of the bulge, but before that one needs to understand how can yoga assist in weight loss and management. To begin with, yoga allows us to slowly recognize the need to answer to our body’s unique physiology, undistracted by outside influences. We learn, through practice, that no two people will perform a given pose in the exact same manner. The individual differences are the result of each person answering to what reflects their own personal comfort zone. Increasing an awareness of your individual needs is only one potential benefit of yoga for weight loss.
A 150-pound person doing Hatha yoga burns about 96 calories every 20 minutes.
Some of the asanas stimulate sluggish glands to increase their hormonal secretions. The thyroid gland, especially, has a big effect on our weight because it affects body metabolism. There are several asanas, such as the shoulder stand and the fish posture, which are specific for the thyroid gland. Fat metabolism is also increased, so fat is converted to muscle and energy. This means that, as well as losing fat, you will have better muscle tone and a higher vitality level. Asanas like gatyatmak meruvakrasana (dynamic spinal twist), chakki chalana (churning the mill), and nauka sanchalana (rowing the boat), massage the abdominal organs and help mobilize the extra fat tissue stored around them. Surya namskara is a complete practice in itself because it includes asana, pranayama, mantra and meditation. This practice has a unique influence on the endocrine and nervous system, helping to correct metabolic imbalances that cause and perpetuate obesity.
Secondly, yoga deep breathing increases the oxygen intake to the body cells, including the fat cells. This causes increased oxidation or burning up of fat cells. Yogic exercises induce more continuous and deeper breathing which gradually burns, sometimes forcefully, many of the calories already ingested.
Thirdly, yogic practices that reduce anxiety tend to reduce anxious eating. When under nervous strain we tend to gulp our food without attaining much genuine satisfaction. We end up in eating more. If, on the other hand, we approach our meals with greater calmness of mood, whether produced by habits which have calmed our life or by yoga (like a pause for prayer before a meal), we tend to be less likely to overeat in a frantic effort to quiet our midday anxieties.
Lastly, yogic aids may be employed between meals whenever one becomes tempted to search for a snack. One may deliberately turn to yoga, rather than to the icebox or snack bar, when he feels the need for a lift or relief from restless nervousness. Practicing yoga may make you aware of your weight problem that may also act as a deterrent from overeating.
For those whose eating habits, whether at meals or between meals, are believed to be due to feelings of weakness rather than anxieties, most yogic postures and breathing exercises are designed to increase one’s strength. The exercises themselves, although consuming some energy, also store up energy which, when combined with oxidizing breathing, provide energy that is ready for use rather than for storage.
Most forms of yoga do not burn significant amounts of calories. This is important, as a strong predictor of long-term weight loss success lies partly in the ability to exercise for maximum energy output. While yoga can certainly fatigue the muscles and require a great deal of effort, the net energy expenditure from yoga is not likely to be high enough to promote the all-important caloric deficit, which is what you need to lose weight. There’s an easy solution to this: simply make sure that in addition to yoga, you’re engaged in some form of enjoyable aerobic exercise-walking, cycling or swimming. As with all weight management tools, yoga can become a powerful partner in helping you achieve your goals, as long as you set reasonable expectations as to its strengths and limitations.